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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
New Chesterton novel discovered
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¬†Forget Shakespeare in Love - here's Chesterton in love! A previously unpublished novel by the celebrated Catholic convert and author of the Father Brown detective stories and such works as The Man Who Was Thursday, has been unearthed and is due to be released in May. Chesterton's literary output also included satirical and polemical journalism, but Basil Howe, believed to be semi-autobiographical and written when Chesterton was aged 20, shows the writer could have become a fine romantic novelist. Shakespeare had his dark lady of the sonnets while GK had a ginger-haired girl, according to this novel. "You would never have thought it was written by Chesterton. His later work was influenced by his wife," said Professor Denis Conlon, President of The Chesterton Society. "This was one she did not want. It is a good romantic novel - not quite Jane Austen but it would stand up very well. It is the sort of work any novelist would hope to achieve especially at that age. "It also shows the talent that was lost. Every critic has said that he cannot handle female characters or love affairs. This novel shows that he could do this extremely well." Basil Howe, was written in 1894, 11 years before Chesterton's first novel The Napoleon Of Notting Hill was published. It is also the product of literary detective work by Professor Conlon, Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Antwerp, as it was among 200 notebooks and assorted papers kept by the late Dorothy Collins, who was Chesterton's Secretary in her attic at Top Meadow Cottage in Beaconsfield until her death in 1989. The collection was sold for £200,000 to the British Library courtesy of the bequest of his old debating rival George Bernard Shaw, and Professor Conlon was able to have access tot he material before it went to its new home. "The title Basil Howe is one I made up," explained Professor Conlon, adding, "a lot of the title pages for the stories were missing and it even seems Miss Collins classified two parts of the present book into two separate stories. Basil Howe does seem to be the central character however." The novel, complete with commentary by Professor Conlon, is due to be published by New City, the publishing arm of the Focolare Movement, which will also published two unpublished Father Brown stories including the last story - also garnered from the same haul of papers.
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